Boris Johnson seeks December election in bid to break Brexit impasse

The Prime Minister is pushing for a poll on December 12.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has launched a fresh bid to break the Brexit deadlock with a push for a pre-Christmas general election.

The Prime Minister threw down the gauntlet to MPs offering them more time to debate his Brexit deal in return for an election on December 12.

But Jeremy Corbyn said Labour was not prepared to back the move until it was clear a no-deal Brexit was completely off the table.

Under the terms of the Fixed-Term Parliament’s Act (FTPA), Mr Johnson requires a two-thirds “super majority” of MPs to call an election, meaning he needs Labour votes.

Mr Corbyn said they wanted to see the terms said of a fresh Brexit extension, expected to be granted by the EU, before making a decision.

“Take no-deal off the table and we absolutely support a general election,” he said.

“But no-deal must be taken off the table.”

Brexit timeline: key dates
(PA Graphics)

The other opposition parties, SNP, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, have also refused to give their backing to the Prime Minister’s plan.

In a threat interpreted as the Government effectively going on strike if it loses, a spokesman for the PM said: “Nothing will come before Parliament but the bare minimum.

“We will pursue a general election every day from then onwards and do everything we can to get it.”

A No 10 source said if MPs failed to back an election in a Commons vote on Monday, the Government would pull the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which is required to ratify the deal, altogether.

Mr Johnson’s gambit effectively acknowledges he has finally given up on his “do or die” Brexit date of October 31.

It came amid expectations that EU leaders will on Friday grant a further Brexit delay until the end of January, despite his vehement objections.

Under the terms of the so-called Benn Act he was required to request the extension after he failed to get approval for his Brexit deal at Saturday’s special sitting of Parliament.

Having also seen his plan to fast-track his Brexit deal through the Commons blocked, Mr Johnson said he was prepared to give MPs more time to consider it, but only if they agreed to an election.

Following a meeting of the Cabinet in political session, with no civil servants present, he said they would have until November 6 to get Brexit done.

Parliament would then be dissolved paving the way for the first December election since 1923.

“The only way credibly to offer more time is for the people of this country and for Parliament to understand that this time there really is a deadline,” Mr Johnson said.

Labour has blocked two previous attempts by the Prime Minister to call an election under the FTPA.

Mr Johnson said it would be “morally incredible” if they refused to go along with his plan now.

“We would campaign day after day after day for the people of this country to be released from subjection to a Parliament that has outlived its usefulness.

“It is time, frankly, for this Parliament to make way for a new, fresh Parliament that can deliver on the priorities of the British people.”

However opposition MPs lined up to express their disapproval of his proposed timetable, saying it still gave too little time for proper scrutiny of the Bill in Parliament.

Labour MPs in particular are opposed to a snap election at a time when the party is trailing the Tories in the polls.

Senior Labour backbencher Ben Bradshaw said he was not prepared to vote for an election.

“I am certainly not falling into this trap. I think the overwhelming view of Labour MPs and Labour supporters in the country is we need a referendum first before an election,” he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said her party would not back an election until it was clear a no-deal Brexit had been ruled out.

“Boris Johnson is trying to distract from his Government’s failure,” she said.

“He has missed his do-or-die deadline and is now demanding that Parliament give him a general election and the time to ram through his Bill without proper scrutiny.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Elections should be exercises in letting voters decide, not devices for charlatans to get their own way.”

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